Understood in terms of rights the following are the characteristics of property rights:

(i) Transferability:

Property can be transferred by its owner by way of sale, exchange or gift. A landowner can transfer his land. Physician can sell his automobile. But one cannot transfer one’s skill and so kill is not property.

(ii) Property Right do not Necessarily Imply Actual use and Enjoyment of Objects by the Owner:


Law makes a distinction between ownership and possession. One may own property without actually using it. In other words, possession of property may be in the hands of persons who are not its owner. A tenant is in possession of a house but the house is not his property. It is the property of the landlord.

(iii) Power-Aspect:

The possession of property implies the possession of power over other. As said above, property can exercise control over those persons who do not have it.

The extent of power which property gives to the owner depends not only upon the definition of his rights but also on the intensity of others’ need and scarcity of the thing.


A man’s ownership of a fountain pen does not give him any control over the illiterate people who do not need it, nor on others because it is abundant in supply.

But if a man has ownership of all the clothing factories, his power over others would be great.

(iv) Property Refers to a Concrete External Object:

It is suggested by some writers that property rights refer to a concrete external object, but as we have seen above such a view limits narrowly the range of property rights.


One can have property of intangible thing like goodwill. When one sells the goodwill of one’s business, what he actually sells is not any external object.

The seller of goodwill only agrees not to compete with the buyer by using the name of the product or the name of the company.

For example, if the manufacturers of ‘Bajaj’ electrical goods sell their goodwill what they agree to is that they will not thereafter brand their goods by the name of ‘Bajaj’. They do not sell their goods but only the name by which these goods were known in the market. They have sold their property of goodwill.

(v) Property is usually Non-human:


This means that the object of property has no rights of its own but is simply the passive object of such rights. The land has no right of its own; it only serves the land owner. In other words, human beings cannot be the object of property. A woman cannot be the property of her husband, nor can the children be the property of their parents. Property rights apply only to those things which have no rights of their own.